Date Published: 2023/04/17

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The benefits of being outside

: A cyclist wearing a pack and riding down a grassy mountain. Beyond, a series of rolling mountains fade into the distance.

As Canadians, we’re all too familiar with long months spent indoors hiding from blustery, cold weather. While there’s nothing wrong with nights spent snuggled up by the fireplace, it’s important to spend time outdoors when we can. Canadians only have a few months out of the entire year when we can go outside and enjoy our country’s natural beauty – without having to bundle up first.

That being said, spending time outdoors is much more than just a rare opportunity. There are actually many health benefits associated with enjoying some fresh air and natural sunlight.

Boosts your energy

Feeling drained? Instead of reaching for that second cup of coffee, try taking a quick walk outside. A recent study found that spending time in fresh air, especially when surrounded by nature, noticeably increased the energy in 90% of participants.

Most of us have become accustomed to breathing in the impure air that circulates around a confined space – especially during the work day. Breathing in fresh air supplies your body with more oxygen, helping it to function more efficiently. In fact, a series of recent studies have found that being outside in nature for just 20 minutes a day is enough to greatly increase our vitality levels.

Strengthens bones and teeth

Spending some time outside soaking up those gorgeous sunrays is an opportunity to give your body the Vitamin D it needs to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Without Vitamin D, your calcium and phosphorous levels in the blood can decrease. This causes calcium to be pulled out of the bones in order to maintain stable blood levels, which weakens your bones and teeth – potentially leading to osteoporosis in adults.

Of course, it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. Spending prolonged periods of time directly exposed to UV rays can cause long-term damage to your skin and overall physical health. Before heading outdoors on a sunny day, make sure you are wearing an appropriate SPF and that you break up your time under the sun with short breaks inside, or in a shaded area.

Reduces stress

If you’ve been feeling tense and worn-down lately, you might want to consider going for a stroll or a short hike through a trail or forest.

A recent study has shown that taking a walk through a wooded area can decrease your heart rate, as well as your cortisol levels – a hormone often used as an indicator for stress.

When we are in nature, the frontal lobe of our brain – the part that is hyper-engaged with modern life – deactivates slightly. Our alpha waves, which are responsible for indicating a calm but alert state, also grow stronger. This means that going for a quick walk outdoors can be like a brief escape or mini vacation from that growing to-do list.

Helps you think better

Having trouble focusing on the task at hand? Researchers have found that taking a short walk, especially in a natural environment, can boost your concentration and attentiveness when you return.

Another study found that a 20-minute outdoor walk can significantly improve your short-term memory, and may even enhance your creative problem-solving skills.

Keeps you active

A bonus of spending time outside is that it often comes paired with some kind of physical activity. Whether it be jogging, biking, walking, rollerblading, playing with the kids or hiking a trail, the important thing is that you’re moving!

Why worry about getting those treadmill hours in at the gym, when you can take your workout outside and enjoy the many health benefits that come with it?

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